Organizations seeking growth in Africa need networks that can keep up with rapid expansion while supporting a distributed workforce and the adoption of cloud services and enterprise applications.

We’ve worked with many business leaders and CIOs on the continent to develop and implement IT strategies that align with these business objectives, and to steer digital transformation in a direction that enables access to innovative technologies.

Because all these undertakings rely on a network that’s reliable and secure, we advocate for network modernization to address technology and business challenges in three key areas: connectivity, security and network operations.

1. Cost-effective connectivity you can rely on

The quality of the continent’s internet connectivity varies across regions – and the costs are significant. In 2023, Africans already paid an average of 6.5% of their monthly income for 2GB of mobile data.

For organizations that need to support business applications, high-quality enterprise connectivity at the edge and at branch level is not cheap. And legacy systems only add to the cost burden. Those that rely partly or fully on legacy systems will find it hard to integrate network technologies such as Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS), a technique for speeding up network connections.

In addition, legacy ecosystems often include disparate network-management solutions from various technology providers. Comprehensive, sustainable solutions can help to contain costs and support modernization.

2. Security front and center with SASE

Cybersecurity threats are always a major concern. According to the INTERPOL African Cyberthreat Assessment Report 2024, there was a 23% year-on-year increase in the average number of cyberattacks per organization in Africa in the past year. It’s critical to implement robust cybersecurity measures all the way down to branch level. These include firewalls, encryption and multifactor authentication.

Globally, many organizations are adopting secure access service edge (SASE), a network architecture that combines wide-area-network capabilities with cloud-native security to simplify network management. SASE unifies networking and security to offer fast, reliable and secure access from anywhere.

SASE supports a smooth, responsive user experience for a more distributed and mobile workforce. Network technologies like MPLS, on the other hand, are typically used in private networks operated by a single organization.

SASE also provides greater flexibility and scalability than MPLS, which can be limited by its on-premises infrastructure – infrastructure that adds to an organization’s operating costs. And, because SASE simplifies security-policy enforcement and network administration, IT teams can focus on more strategic tasks.

Given all these benefits, it’s hardly surprising that recent studies show that 40% of African organizations have already implemented or are planning to deploy SASE solutions.

However, setting up an effective SASE architecture requires meticulous planning. To get this right, CIOs can work with external experts that provide managed SASE services to make the transition to an improved security posture as seamless as possible.

3. AI and automation for uptime and productivity

Once organizations know that their networks are fully secured, they can safely explore using other next-generation technologies like AI-enabled automation to improve their network uptime and, in turn, productivity.

Autonomous operations make network management simpler and more efficient. Like SASE, they are a time-saver for IT teams, as they reduce the effort involved in day-to-day network operations – especially when dealing with cross-continental sites in Africa.

Then, switching to platform-driven networks – which are highly scalable, allowing organizations to adjust their network capacity continually based on demand – is particularly beneficial for organizations in Africa that are experiencing rapid growth.

The cost of digital transformation

Network modernization is at the heart of game-changing digital strategies, but many organizations do not have the in-house skills and budget to manage their digital transformation holistically.

According to McKinsey Africa, 60% of African CIOs cite a lack of financial resources as a major barrier to organization-wide digital transformation. The rising costs associated with doing business on the continent – including for energy, transportation, telecoms, security, interborder trade, taxes, land and marketing – can make it difficult to CIOs to justify network-modernization expenses.

But if you’re an organization looking for sustainable, long-term growth, the cost of doing nothing is high. CIOs are therefore seeking guidance from expert service providers to upgrade their hardware and software, integrate cloud, redesign their network architecture and, importantly, bolster their network security.

Network as a service for fast progress 

To help CIOs implement these new network technologies in the most efficient way, the network-as-a-service (NaaS) model is ideal. It allows them to consume network infrastructure through flexible opex subscriptions that include hardware, software, management tools, licenses and lifecycle services.

This contrasts with the traditional network model that requires capex for physical networks with switches, routers and licensing.

NaaS users can scale up and down as demand changes, deploy services rapidly and eliminate hardware costs. This allows them to improve business performance with a cost-effective and scalable subscription-based model.

Working with a NaaS provider like NTT DATA also gives organizations ongoing and affordable access to innovation. This is particularly beneficial for African enterprises challenged by the high cost of implementing new technologies.

Read more about NTT DATA’s Secure Access Service Edge offering and Network as a Service solution to build a resilient security posture and protect your assets.